This was Television on March 2

1989: Madonna and Pepsi court controversy

One of the 1980s’ biggest pop stars teamed with the soft drink which billed itself as “the choice of a new generation” for a massive marketing collaboration. Madonna’s new single, the title track to her latest record, Like a Prayer provided the backdrop for a two-minute Pepsi commercial which premiered on this date. In it, Madonna relived childhood memories—a wholesome premise quickly overshadowed by the content of the “Like a Prayer” music video which debuted on MTV the following day. That video blended religious iconography with depictions of sexuality, and threw in a few burning crosses as well. Uproar from various public groups over “Like a Prayer” cast a shadow over the Pepsi collaboration, causing the soda maker to cancel its contract and transforming the $5 million commercial (which audiences invariably associated with the provocative video) into a boondoggle. -A.D.

Today’s Birthdays: Desi Arnaz, bandleader (d. 1986); BarBara Luna, character actress (74); Michael Rye, voice actor (d. 2012).

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